Charlotte Wyatt

Charlotte was born on 20 November, 1792 in Bengal, India. The first hint that Charlotte’s life might not have been the straight-forward one expected of a young woman of her class comes in a codicil to her father’s will, written on 5 July, 1812, where he changed his bequest to “my daughter, Charlotte now the Wife of Mr. Charles Henry she having intermarried without the consent of her parents.” Instead of her equal share of his estate, Charlotte was to receive the yearly sum of £100 to her independent use, free of any husband’s debts or control.[1] Further searching quickly unearthed a court case in 1817 brought by Charlotte to prove that no valid marriage had in fact taken place between herself and Charles Henry (nullity of marriage)—the grounds being “an undue publication of banns.”

The published reports of the case reveal a tangled story. Charlotte had married Charles Henry of Ealing, Middlesex at Christ Church, Surrey on 1 July, 1812 (just four days before her father changed his will). However, Charlotte was a minor at the time—just 19 years old—and as it transpired, Charles Henry was actually Thomas Henry and the issue at the centre of the court case was that the publication of banns had been in the name of Charles instead of Thomas. But Charles, or Thomas, was also a bigamist.

The court documents established that he was the son of Thomas and Marcelle Henry, born on 21 May, 1789 in the village of Rathsan, in the parish of Kilvarnet in Sligo, Ireland and that his parents being Roman Catholic, he was baptised privately at home. In 1802, his uncle, Miles Henry, an apothecary, had taken Thomas on as an assistant in his shop, and upon his uncle’s death in 1804, he had first become an apothecary at the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham in Dublin and later set up business for himself in Sligo. Here, on 5 February, 1808 he had married one Eliza Robinson according to the rites of the Roman Catholic church, subsequently deserting her and moving to England. He had married Eliza under the name of Thomas Henry. [2]

Although the man she had married did not contest the case, Charlotte’s difficulty was being able to show what Thomas Henry or Charles Henry had been doing in the two years prior to his marriage and whether the use of the given name “Charles” was actually fraudulent, even though Thomas Henry had admitted to the charge of bigamy when taken into custody at Bow Street in November, 1812. Affadavits submitted by others who had boarded in the same house as Charlotte and her husband soon after her marriage were eventually accepted by the presiding judge and the marriage was declared null.

The story unfolds further in the newspapers of the period; it was not to be expected that such an interesting story would escape the attention of the media.

On Saturday Charles Henry, a young man of a very genteel appearance, a surgeon, was brought before Mr. Graham, at Bow-street, charged with unlawfully and feloniously marrying Miss Charlotte Wyatt, the daughter of Capt. Wyatt. of Ealing, Member for Sudbury, he having at the time another wife living. Miss Wyatt was entitled to a fortune of 10,000l. The prisoner got acquainted with Miss Wyatt; she eloped with him, and they were married, by banns, at Christ Church, Surrey. Mr. Wyatt, the young lady’s father, afterwards found that the prisoner had married another wife at Sligo, in Ireland. The prisoner said he did not consider the union in Ireland as a legal marriage, it being solemnized in a room, according to the rites of the Catholic Church; he was nevertheless fully committed for trial, and the parties bound over to prosecute at the next assizes for the county of Surrey. (Bury and Norwich Post, 25 November, 1812)

Charles Henry’s subsequent fate is unknown. A detailed search of the records for the Surrey assizes would establish whether he was convicted of the crime of bigamy.

From testimony that she gave at her brother Thomas’s divorce, we know that Charlotte was in India visiting him from 1820–1825.[3] We also have the record of her passage out to India, permission for her to sail being granted by the East India Company on 27 May, 1820.[4] The year after her return to England, on 26 August, 1826, Charlotte made a more permanent marriage to Edward Carte at St. Marylebone Church in London. There was, of course, no mention made of her previous venture into matrimony in official documents—she signed the parish register as Charlotte Carte (formerly Wyatt).

Although Edward Carte had also been born in Ireland, in Newcastle, County Limerick on 20 January, 1803 (thus being about ten years younger than his wife), he was of a quite different character to Thomas, or Charles Henry. Edward may well have met Charlotte during her time in India, as he had arrived there in May 1821 as a member of the 63rd Native Infantry, eventually becoming a Lieutenant.[5] After his marriage to Charlotte, he appears to have returned to Ireland where he was awarded a B.A. by Trinity College in 1830. He subsequently entered the church and by 1837 he was perpetual curate of the parish of Gentleshaw in Staffordshire, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

GENTLESHAW church in this parish, near Beaudesert, and Cannock Chase is a neat brick structure, which was built in 1845 by the Marquess of Anglesey, and will seat 120 people, and has a district of about 550 souls allotted to it. The living is a perpetual curacy, valued at £100, in the alternate patronage of the Bishop and Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, and incumbency of the Rev. E. Carte, B.A.[6]

There were no children of the marriage. Charlotte died in Denbigh Street in London at her brother Herbert’s home on 4 June, 1864.[7] She was buried in Brompton Cemetery. Edward lived for another six years, dying at Gentleshaw on 14 October, 1870. He was buried with his wife.[8]

[1] Charles Wyatt PCC Will, 1819, PROB 11/1615/35.

[2] Haggard, John. Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Consistory Court of London… London: A. Strahan, 1822, p. 216.

[3] “Minutes of Evidence Taken Upon the Second Reading of the Bill Intituled An Act to Dissolve the Marriage of Thomas Wyatt Esquire…” In The Sessional Papers Printed By Order of the House of Lords… Vol. XX, 1841, p. 351. Available: books.google.com.

[4] Biographical Notes, Charlotte Wyatt. British Library: IO Z/O/1/8 No. 2518.

[5] Hodson, V.C.P. List of the Officers of the Bengal Army, 1758–1834. London: Constable, 1927–1947.

[6] White, William. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire. 2d ed. Sheffield: The Author, 1851.

[7] Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 217, 1864, p. 124.

[8] Brompton Cemetery Grave Reference: M/143/46.3.

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